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~ The Vampire Diaries ~

Stefan awoke to an unfamiliar foam-tiled ceiling, covered in a scratchy blanket. He looked around with a furrowed gaze of confusion, only for them to widen in alarm as he took in the hospital room and IV taped below his elbow. He had absolutely no recollection of getting here, simply going to bed as Damon had ordered and now waking up here, alone. One thing the newly turned human knew—this was the last place he was supposed to be: born in 1846, a vampire for a 145 years, brought back for the Other Side and resurrected back into a human with magic... he needed to get the hell out of here! 

Grasping the raised bed railings, Stefan pulled himself upright and threw off the blanket. He was contemplating which to do first: lower the rail or take out the IV needle when a nurse came in, first surprised to see him awake, then pleased that he was as she approached his bed.

"And where do you think you're going, hon?" a hand on his shoulder pushed his weak body back against the pillow and she efficiently tucked the blanket back around him before he could even think of an answer. "It's nice to finally see those beautiful green eyes in person."

"How did I get here?" he finally asked. "I really can't be here, I need to go home."

She touched the back of her hand to his forehead and cheeks, checking. "You're right where you need to be." Stefan opened his mouth to protest when she stuck a thermometer under his tongue, he went to take it out but she put her fingers under his chin. "Aw, mouth closed, Mr Salvatore."

Stefan stilled, mind going blank.

"Chin up, Stefan. Show me that grand posture," she put her finger under his chin, forcing him to raise it. And then set the base of the glass on his skull. "Don't spill now," her manicured nail nicked his chin on purpose as she released him.

The beep of the thermometer jolted him from the memory and the nurse took the instrument. "97.2, that just what we want. Looks like your fever finally broke. You're up just in time for lunch service. We'll get something into that empty belly and your brother and his boyfriend will be back before you know it; they just needed a little air."

Stefan stared, train of thought side-railed by the thought of food, before they were completed overhauled by the following sentence as the words finally penetrated his conscious. "What?"

She stood at the foot of his bed, jotting a note in his chart. "You're lucky to have such a caring brother. Him and that cute history teacher of his from the high school, no one could mistake the love they have for you. Ah, but your girlfriend, the brunette—definite keeper." She replaced the chart. "An orderly will be by shortly with that food tray, hon."

Stefan stared after her as she left and continued to stare; 'Your brother and his boyfriend. That cute history teacher of his from the high school'. She thought Damon and Alaric were boyfriends. Of course that was a safe and obvious assumption, even if it wasn't true—so why did it make his chest hurt?

Alaric was a 33 year old man, a teacher, Stefan was a 17 year old kid, his student; vampirism didn't translate in the 'real’ world. If people found out that Alaric was really Stefan's boyfriend, they'd try and put the teacher away for statutory rape—but his disturbance was slightly eased at remembering that his school record claimed that he was 18. Or Alaric would just get fired from Mystic Falls High, his teaching licence suspended pending a inquiry by the School Board. Not the worse case scenario, but wasn't that much better either.

How long would it be before Alaric realized the same thing that it took Stefan on the drive home from the quarry that night, if he hadn't already. Being sick (still seemed like a fantastical concept) and stuck in the hospital was not a point in his favour.

Stefan was brought out of his dark musings as the orderly came with his food. It was a bowl of chicken noodle soup, two little 4 packets of crackers, a small orange juice, and a strawberry Jell-O cup. His stomach grumbled eagerly as he inhaled the broth aroma'd steam and eagerly picked up the provided spoon and dug in; this taking priority at the moment.

The orderly watched him in amusement. "You must either actually like hospital food or you are starving."

Stefan had never had hospital food before, he had been a vampire, what need did he have for it? He could safely say he was glad for it; the soup was watery, the crackers a little too salty, but he was hungry. "Starving." He answered in the brief pause it took to bring the spoon to his mouth.

"I never would have guessed," he chuckled. "I'll be back in a bit to collect your tray."

Stefan could only nod as the orderly left, his mouth full of soup-saturated cracker. It was definitely a sucky second meal, but his empty stomach would always overrule his fussy taste buds; that was why he was able to feed on road kill as Damon had put it.

Finished with the soup, he pushed the plastic bowl aside and pulled the Jell-O cup forward. He peeled back the foil seal. Stefan couldn't remember that last time he'd eaten Jell-O, he tried but nothing surfaced. He ate a spoonful and sucked it through his teeth in amusement as he ate. When he cleared the tray, he put the cover back on and pushed the bed table away, laying back with a sigh, stomach sated for the moment.

Now that he didn't have food as a distraction and deterrent, he was left to wonder exactly how long he'd been here and how many people his brother must have compelled to get it done. He must have been really bad off if Damon even considered to bring him to the hospital, let alone actually bring him.

Still feeling tired and a little weak, with his hunger fulfilled, it was all to easily to succumb to his body's desire for rest despite his precarious position in the hospital.

Stefan laid back and curled onto his side. He pulled the blanket up around his shoulders, scratching at the irritating tape pulling at his skin around the needle. He sighed, his hand lightly curled around the rail by his face, staring through half-lidded eyes atthe ring that now adorned his left ring finger until it slowly faded out and rest took him.

Cool fingers traced down the side of his face. Stefan sucked in a sharp breath as his eyes snapped open, unseeing. Only seeing Katherine. His jerked away from the touch. His shoulder blade struck sharply against the metal rail, that if hadn't been there, he otherwise would have tumbled of the edge of the bed and to the tiles floor more painfully. But he hardly felt it with the adrenaline kicking his heart to beat so painfully in his chest it felt unnatural. His top lip drawn back in defence to flash a warning of wicked fang that he no longer possessed.

"Ho, easy! Easy. It's just me, Stef. It's me."

The voice penetrated the primal fog and Stefan's vision cleared to focus on a pale face with dirty-blond hair. His lip lowered back over his teeth and he slump back into the bed, all the energy and tension leaving him exhausted.

"I didn't mean to startle you," Alaric apologized quietly, slowly reach through the rail like Stefan would jerk away, but the human didn't as the teacher laid his hand over his on the bed between them, Stefan still pressed to the other side of the bed. "The nurse told me you woke up, but you were asleep when I came in, I didn't want to wake you, but it looked like your were starting to dream bad and when I touched you--"

"You saw into my head," Stefan said.

Alaric grimaced. "It just popped into my head when I touched you. Katherine, like a flash. I didn't mean to, Stefan, I swear. I know how you feel about it and I would never do it on purpose--!"

Stefan turned his hand over under his, squeezing the man's hand. "I know." At least it was just a flash of Katherine and nothing else, there would be no questions about him having a nightmare about Katherine, other things, his true fears, not so much.

His gaze shifted behind Alaric's head and on the closed blind behind him and actually remembered the he was here in the hospital where the whole place smelt like a blood buffet to a vampire, and especially like a all-you-can-eat-blood-buffet to a Ripper or a bampi. His eyes snapped back to the vampire and he raised himself up on an elbow, "Are you okay to be here? All this blood must be driving you crazy," he said with sensitivity; Alaric swallowed at the reminder. "You don't have to push yourself before you're ready just because of me."

"I'm doing alright." Alaric squeezed his hand in assurance. "The first day, when we brought you was the most difficult—there was a man, he was injured, blood everywhere and it just smelt so good, they took him right passed me. I dug my fingers so hard into the armrests that I gave myself splinters, it anchored me to the chair and stopped me from actually going after the guy but he left blood on the floor right in front of me and I was just transfixed. Didn't even realize that I inching toward it until a mop swept right through it and broke me out of the trace. There have been a couple more close calls when I couldn't stop my face from showing, but I've come up with a few methods to help me control the urge jump every bleeding wound that passes by."

Stefan couldn’t help but stare at him with envy and admiration. "You're a good vampire, Ric."

Alaric shook his head. "I've just had other, more pressing things to keep me distracted from all the temptation in this place."

Stefan glanced at there clasped hands on the bed. "So it's a good thing I got sick then, to distract you."

"No, it's not," Alaric countered. "But nice attempt to put a spin on it."

Stefan sighed and shifted on the bed so he was lain more comfortably. "How long have I been in here anyway?"

"3 days," Alaric squeezed his hand. "It's Friday."

"3 days?!" Stefan exclaimed in shock, bolting upright. "What the hell happened to me?"

"You were sick as a dog," Damon came into the room without knocking, closing the door behind him. "Had you actually been a dog, I would have just put you out of your misery." He crossed his arms over his chest as he stood at the foot of the bed.

"You came down with a fever," Alaric elaborated.

Stefan furrowed his brows. "Like when I was little?" he looked at his brother.

"In that dramatic way you have, you went a step further than that, brother."

"What--?" Stefan looked between them even more confused.

"You weren't in your right mind, Stefan." Damon retorted sharply. "You were about to jump off your balcony when Alaric found you. Had he been a second slower--" he suddenly slapped his hands together in a to-the-chase demonstration, making the couple jolt. "Splat!"

Stefan was stunned at the revelation, his gaze turned away as he tried to remember. He went to bed, fell asleep surprisingly fast for how racing and scrambling his mind had been, the unfamiliar alive feelings his body was transmitting. He didn't remember if he had dreamed, but he dragged up the memory of hunger. "I was... hungry," he said slowly. "So I was going to go for a hunt and feed."

Damon blurred to his side in a blink, fist balled in his gown, yanking the tie at the back of his neck loose. "You're human now, Stefan!" the teen flinched at the reminder, "that means there is no balcony shortcuts, not hunting and no need for blood. There are just stairs, front doors, and foodstuff."

Alaric was on his feet in an instant, his chair skittering back against the wall with a squeal. "Easy, Damon!" he growled. "It wasn't his fault, he woke up fevered and did what he's done for the past 74 years."

Damon stared at the teacher for a moment with a tight gaze before he inhaled deeply and took a step back. There was an uncomfortable silence before Stefan asked his big brother hesitantly: "When can I get out of here?"

"The doctor will be here in a minute, he'll check you over and if he says your good, then you can go. Otherwise, you're not going anywhere."

"But--" Stefan started only to seal his lips at Damon's glare. There was silence and suddenly Stefan realized how loud he seemed to be breathing; did it always sound like that or was he just imagining it? Maybe it was because he actually needed the oxygen and his body was trying to get as much as it could with each breath.

The doctor finally came and Damon shifted back to his original spot at the foot as the man checked out the teen's chart.

"How are you feeling, Mr Salvatore?"

"Great," Stefan answered instantly, "Better."

The doctor nodded, probably took his answer with a grain of salt and started the exam, Stefan enduring with impatient patience as the man retook his temperature, shined a light down his throat and in his eyes, put a scope in his ears. The doctor pulled loose the tie on his gown at his shoulder blades and pulled it down, first placing the end of the stethoscope to his chest to listen to his heart, then back to listen to his lungs; Stefan gave a sharp shiver at the cold of the metal against his sensitive skin, goose bumps crawling across his exposed skin.

Finally, the doctor stepped back and Stefan exhaled. It was over. "So am I--" he stopped as he noticed the doctor setting up a sterile tray. "Wait, what is that for?" Stefan pulled away a little warily.

"Your immunization shot. Your chart says you've never had one and I want to give it to you before we release you," the doctor explained.

"You'll let me go if I get the shot?" the doctor nodded and Stefan practically threw his arm at the man. Needles had never bee a good experience for him, as a vampire there was no use for a syringe medically, just torturously filled with vervain. But he wasn't a vampire anymore, he was human and while in this state (as short as he intended it to be) he might as well be safe with himself for that time being.

The doctor pulled the gown off over his right shoulder and swiped a patch of skin low over his black rose tattoo on his shoulder and Stefan stilled. There was the sharp pinch of the needle piercing his vulnerable skin, then the syringe emptying into his warm flowing blood before it was extracted and a cotton ball pressed and taped over. The doctor then removed the IV needle in his forearm with the same treatment.

"I just need your signature on the discharge papers," the doc addressed Damon, cleaning up. "And you're all free to go." Damon's gaze flickered between the teen and the teacher before he followed the doctor out.

Stefan rotated his arm for a moment and looked at Alaric, who was absolutely still. "You alright?"

Alaric cleared his throat. "Yeah." Because it might have just been a few drops that touched open air, but it was Stefan's blood and to him, it smelled like someone gutted the brunette.

"It will get better," Stefan insisted softly.

"I know," it just doesn't ever feel like it right now. "I just don't want there to ever be a reason I have to smell your blood."

"Don't worry," he found the release on the bed rail and lowered it. "This won't be for long." Stefan didn't notice the look that Alaric quickly smothered at the off-hand comment. He threw the blanket off and ignore the cold tile under his bare feet. "Am I going to have to walk out in this gown or did you--?" he turned to find the vampire setting his gym bag that the teen hadn't noticed before onto the bed. Stefan grinned and pulled it towards him eagerly. "I totally would have walked out like this if I had to," he unzipped the bag, his buckle boots sitting on top and clothes folded underneath.

"Do you want--" Alaric started, but stopped abruptly able to do nothing but stare and watch.

Stefan arched his back slightly as he reached behind himself and found the ties holding his gown together and pulled the knots free, shedding the garment right there and leaving it as a puddle at his feet and leaving himself stark. He dug in the duffle and found his boxer-briefs, stepping into them. Followed by a comfortable pair of jeans, a t-shirt, a pullover sweater, and his jacket; if his calculations were right without looking at the calendar for the past week, it was the start of December and with his current low tolerance to temperature, there was going to be a bit of a nip in the air. He leaned against the bed to pull on socks and slip on his boots.

When he finally looked up, dressed, it was to find Alaric staring at him with dark eyes. "What?" he gave a small smile.

Alaric licked his lips. "Just glad to see you up."

The smile grew. "I'm just glad to see you. Period. And to break the mood, I have to, um..." he glanced over his shoulder at the little cubicle bathroom in his room.

Alaric chuckled and gave a small headshake. "It would have been a tight fit anyway."

Stefan just flashed him an out-of-the-loop look and went to the washroom, turning on the light and pulling closed the fold-away plastic door. He emptied his full bladder and stared at his reflection as he washed his hands. He looked pale and pasty, like he'd just gotten over something. His cheeks and jaw darkening with stubble. His hair a bit lank and darker, greasy from lack of wash over the past 3 days as he sweated out the fever. It was probably just going to be the same as that night home from the quarry; shower, eat, sleep.

When he came out, Damon and Alaric were already waiting for him. Stefan didn't wait and headed straight for the door. His strides were long as he quickly and efficiently followed the directional signs. When he breathed, he didn't smell the blood, only that terrible hospital scent; but a quick glance at Alaric, though he looked normal to any casual viewer, Stefan could see the tight set of his jaw as the scent of blood would overpower even the hospital smell to a vampire.

Through two sets of double doors and Stefan got his first breath of crisp, fresh air and his freedom. He started to turn on the walk towards the parking lot but quickly found it unnecessary. "Damon, this is where ambulances drive." Stefan noted with great disapproval at his brother's flippant action of a parking space.

"Saint Stefan, rearing his righteous indignation for the little people," was Damon's response, looking across the roof of his car at him. "Stop dawdling and get in already so I can free up this precious parking space, huh?" he patted the roof and climbed in.

Stefan sighed and got into the front seat while Alaric climbed in the back, he put on his seatbelt before Damon pulled out of the emergency way and into traffic.

"Can we stop somewhere to get something to eat?" the brunette questioned as his stomach started to act out again. "I'm starving."

"You just got out of the hospital, Stefan. That last thing you're going to be doing is going out to eat." Damon told him.

"Last I remember, the cupboards were going a little bare at the house," Stefan said. "Is there even anything good to eat?"

"I didn't just sit at your fevered bedside waiting for you to wake up, alright?"

Stefan raised a brow. "You went shopping? Alone?" Alaric snickered from the backseat and Damon shot a glare at the pair of them. "Do you even know what people eat?"

"Of course I do. All anybody around this town does is eat and drink, just fattening themselves in wait for the nature of things to take course," he flashed a fang suggestively at his brother.

Stefan snorted. "You're a tamed pussycat now, Damon, drinking your milk from a bowl."

"Watch it, brother, or I might just slip out the open door and go feral again."

Stefan laughed.

"Don't worry, Stefan." Alaric spoke up. "Elena went with him."

When they arrived back at the Boarding House, despite the only one not a vampire, Stefan was the first out of the car and up the porch steps. He quickly shed his boots and jacket at the door and headed straight down the hall towards the kitchen. The hunger pains were just not letting up! he didn't remember being this hungry the last time he was human.

He gnawed on his lips as he quickly searched through the cupboards and refrigerator, both stocked full. Stefan needed something fast, something he could literally sink his teeth into; he couldn't face another bowl of soup right now. He needed something solid. Head in the fridge, he quickly started to gather foodstuff and condiments into his arms, setting it around the chopping board on the island counter. He quickly laid out 2 pieces of whole wheat bread and slathered 1 end with low fat Miracle Whip, the other with spicy mustard; he could already see Elena's healthy hand in the shopping. He folded a couple slices of juicy roast beef lunchmeat on the mustard piece, cheese slices, a quickly sliced tomato followed, with some pickles and a shredded leaf of Romaine lettuce. His mouth had already been slavering since he opened the roast beef. He pressed the second slice on top, not even wasting the time to cut it before he picked it up and sunk his eager teeth into it. Without even looking, he hooked his toe around the leg of a nearby stool and dragged it under his butt, moaning all the while as he tore the first piece off.

He chewed with rapture, eyes closed as he tasted each differing layers separately, before combined as he swallowed. He could just picture in his mind’s eye, it going down his oesophagus and then dropping into his empty, eager stomach acid and felt satisfaction. He immediately took another bite and another, his contentment growing each time until there was nothing but crumbs on his fingers.

Suddenly, food tasted 5x better than it had when he was a vampire with heightened senses. As if now that the food consumed actually curbed and sated his hunger, if temporarily, it gave more meaning to the consumption; the taste, texture, temperature.

"If I was into food-porn..." an amused voice mused across the island.

Stefan slowly licked his lips to find Alaric leaning back against counter, dark mug in hand, freshly showered and changed, his hair darker with damp. The teen couldn't detect steam rising from the mug so he took the safe assumption that it was blood; good. He smiled, "Hate to rile you up when I can't give you that happy ending we both so want." He winked.

"Mm," Alaric hummed in agreement as he tipped to cup to his lips, the shadow of veins around his eyes as he drank, staring across at the brunette. "Still." His tongue swiped the blood from his pink lips as he lowered the mug, green eyes followed the motion.

"I'll make you 1," Stefan declared. "Despite you being on a liquid diet now, doesn't mean a solid thing or 2 isn't good for you."

"You don't have to," he gave the token protest as he came and sat on the stool at the corner by him, setting his mug down, Stefan already setting to work.

"Maybe I am into food porn," Stefan teased, layering the contents of the sandwich, grinning as he heard the low rumble from the vampire. Holding the top piece with his fingers on the edges of the bread, he cut it diagonally in half with the butcher knife. "Voilà,"

"Thanks, Stefan. It looks good," he took a big bite.

"Ooh, yeah. That's it, Ric. Just like that baby. Mm. So hot," Stefan purred to him, giving him green hooded bedroom eyes, pink bottom lip caught sensually between his teeth.

Alaric's eyes widened and he choked, completely unprepared, setting the sandwich half down and Stefan giggled at him, giving the dirty-blond a wink as he thumped his chest and cleared his throat, picked up the mug and washed the remains down with a gulp of cold blood.

"Sorry," Stefan grinned as Alaric gave him a rather unimpressed, if a little turned-on look at the brunette doing a little dirty talk which he'd never really heard before. "I couldn't help myself," he reached across and thumbed away the bit of blood at the corner of the vampire's lips.

He went to withdraw but Alaric took hold on his hand and eyes locked with his boyfriend's, wrapped his lips around the digit. Stefan exhaled in a stutter as he felt Alaric's tongue brush against the pad of his thumb, gently swirling his tongue to collect all traces of blood from the creases of his print, sucking gently. Stefan felt his body grow warm and his cock start to stir and all too soon the teacher released his thumb gleaming in saliva to press a kiss to the palm of his hand, then release him entirely.

Stefan shifted in the stool and Alaric gave him a little knowing smirk, then a wink and picked back up the sandwich half and took another bite. "Sexual revenge is a double-edged sword, Ric." He murmured, screwing the lids to the jars, and twisting up bags.

Alaric didn't dignify that with an answer and just turned on the stool and leaned over to pull open the fridge door as he finished the half. Arms loaded, Stefan ducked into the machine and shelved the contents, Alaric smacked his ass before he stood. Stefan chuckled as he straightened, closing the door as he turned to find Alaric with his feet propped on the crossbar on the stool legs, holding the second half of the sandwich with both hands, his blue eyes wide with glowing innocent mischief as he ate.

"I'm going to take a shower," Stefan informed him slowly, stepping forward and closing the short distance. "I need one, as you can no doubt smell even without heightened vampire-senses." He leaned forward, hands on the edge of the island, bracketing the vampire, but careful not to touch.

"I didn't want to say anything,"

"Mm, as is only polite," he slowly inched his face forward—and took a bite of the sandwich piece between them. Alaric watched as he chewed, his stubbled jaw working, the bob of his Adam's apple as he swallowed, tongue slowly tracing across lips to collect any crumbs. "Compliments to the chef," he pressed as kiss to the dirty-blond's cool, pale forehead.

"You shouldn't sexually frustrate a vampire," he pouted, popping the last bite into his mouth haughtily. "It's particularly selfish."

"A double-edged sword," Stefan reminded as he straightened. And backing towards the door, couldn't help but get one last hot lick in: "There's no need to wonder exactly what I'm going to be doing in that shower," he winked, Alaric's eyes going pitch in arousal and nearly skipped down the hall.

He climbed the stares slowly, felling a bit winded by the time he set foot on the top landing and headed for his room; wondering where Damon had gotten off to. He paused as he stepped into his bedroom, pushing the door closed behind him. Something felt off, like something was out of place; but as he slowly started to survey his room with narrowed eyes, he quickly got distracted as his gaze lighted on Salvatore's fishbowl set on the cleared spot on his dresser shelf.

"Hey, buddy!" Stefan grinned as he went over. His fingertip tracing against the glass, but instead of startling like a regular fish, Salvatore brushed his fins against the glass back as he swam by in long greeting. "Remember me? I didn't forget about you, promise. Just ran into a little, ex-girlfriend trouble." He opened the little container next to the bowl and sprinkled some food flakes into the water; Salvatore eagerly swam around, eating. "But it looks like Elena took great care of you, huh? Even cleaned your bowl by the looks of it. Gonna have to thank her properly for that next time I see her." He watched the fish for a few minutes longer before he straightened and went to his wardrobe for a change of comfortable clothes.

He stripped down to his underwear and put his clothes in the hamper before he went into the bathroom. He showered, scrubbing days of sweat and hospital smell from his pores, went to the washroom. It felt good to brush the fuzz from his teeth and floss. He combed his wet hair back but otherwise left it unstyled as he inspected the dark stubble on his face, wondering if he should shave it or leave it.

It made him look older, made him appear at least 20, it was a trick he used when he stayed somewhere to attend college and university, or wanted to inhabit a career and stay for more than a handful of years. If he was careful... he could milk it for nearly 10 years, but never longer than that, not unless he wanted to start using makeup and hair dye to age himself up.

He knew, in his gut, that he was going to need it soon, but it was too early to pull it out now so he filled the sink with warm water and took out the shaving cream and razor from the medicine cabinet. He was 17 but if he wanted to be with Alaric, he couldn't be, nor could he stay in his current condition.

Stefan patted his face dry with a face towel, clean-shaven and back to looking like a fresh-faced teenager. With a sigh, he dressed and left the bathroom. With a glance at his alarm clock, he saw it was only 7 p.m., too early to sleep even though he knew he would if he laid down. He stopped short as he finally noticed it, that something off about his room that had been almost too subtle to notice, but subconsciously had warning bells ringing.

"What the hell?"

Stefan reached out and touched the doorknobs on his balcony doors that were not the originals, they used to be push handles. He twisted the dark brass knobs and pulled, but they were locked. He traced the setting, there was no push lock but instead a deadlock which could only be opened with a key—a key that he didn't have!

"Damon," he uttered in realization, it was the only conclusion he could come to. 'I didn't just sit at your fevered bedside waiting for you to wake up, alright?' Oh, there were so many things that sentence of his brother's could encompass other than apparently grocery shopping with Elena. Stefan gnashed his teeth as he straightened. "Damon!" he shouted furiously, turning on his heel and storming from his room and down the hall towards the vampire's bedroom. He just passed the stairs when Damon was suddenly standing in front of him.

"You called?"

Stefan gave him a shove, only putting him back half a step and causing him to raise a brow. "You changed the lock on my balcony doors without my permission or knowing while I was in the hospital?!"

Damon's eyes flashed. "Yes," he said succulently. "Is that all?"

"Is that--?" he sputtered. "What the hell made you think you had the right to go into my room and mess with my space?! Give me the key!" he held out him hand demandingly.

Damon scoffed. "What do you need to open it for anyway? It's winter; with your luck you'll catch a draft and end up back at the hospital."

Stefan rolled his eyes. "Just because I human now," he spat the word, "Doesn't mean that gives you right to try and control my life, I won't tolerate it."

"Oh, you won't tolerate it?" he mused. His blues eyes hardened and narrowed, "And what exactly do you plan to do about it if I did, huh?" he jabbed Stefan in the chest with more than human strength, sending him back several steps with a flinch of pain. "You're just a weak, puny human now," another jab, more stumbling steps back, "Not that you put up much of a challenge even when you were a vampire." Jab, more bruises. "So I don't know what you think you're going to do now." His hand moved again, but Stefan slapped it away.

"Don't," he warned.

"Stop me and I will," Damon's vamp-face flashed in the dim lighting of the hallway and he shoved the teen, sending him flying down a short stretch of hall with a cry, his foot catching on the corner of the old rug that lined the floor. He crashed hard on the floor on his butt and back with a grunt, the wind knocked out of him. "You were saying?" Damon sneered down at him.

Stefan stared up at him with a slightly shocked gaze, his heart racing in his chest.

There was a blur that Stefan's eyes couldn't track and Alaric suddenly had Damon shoved against the wall, his vamp-face out. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Just teaching my baby brother a nice little life lesson, stay out of it." Damon easily shoved the bampi off.

"Like hell you are," Alaric growled. "You're not touching him."

Damon gave a dark smirk. "I can tear through you like that," he blurred behind Alaric, snapped by his ear with the same speed and was back to his previous spot in a second. "I can stake you in the lung and you'll heal easily enough, I can snap your neck and you'll come back good as new, even better than that Gilbert ring you had. So don't wax lyrical to me able my baby brother, Ric; not until you've known him more than a month or been a vampire more that a week. He needs to learn--"

"By you shoving him around just after he got out of the hospital?"

Still on the floor, Stefan listened to them. He listened and heard the truth behind what they were saying, what they've all said. 'You're weak, Stefan.' 'What use are you?' 'You'll just get in the way, Stefan.' 'You break, you always do.' 'You're not strong enough.' 'You didn't do anything, Stefan.' 'You always were pathetic, brother.' 'Weak, Stefan. That's what you are, weak!' He felt tears burn behind his eyes at the assault, but blinked them back and swallowed the hitch in his breath.

"I'm not weak," Stefan whispered so quietly that they only would have heard had they actually been paying him any attention. He pulled himself to his feet, ignoring the ache under his skin. "Shut up," Stefan snapped, "The both of you!" they looked over at him like they really had forgotten he was there to start their fight over in the first place, and it just fuelled the teen. "I don't need to be treated like an infant; I've survived in this world longer than you," he told Alaric. "And survived a 145 years without your good input," he directed at Damon. "So I sure as hell don't need this now."

"You've done a good job of it so far," Damon muttered derisively but Stefan heard it anyway.

"I'd just come back from the dead!" he jumped down their throats scathingly, ignoring their visible flinches. "Sorry if my equilibrium was off." He glared between the 2 of them, "So this bullshit better come to an end, or it's going to be something all 3 of us regret." He didn't give them time to respond and pushed passed them, going down the stairs.

Neither tried to follow after him and it was a good thing too, because he felt about ready to start punching things, no matter the damage it would do to himself. Stefan was used to lingering pains, with his slowed healing properties as a vampire who had been surviving off of animal blood, but at least it had dulled the pain for him. Human now, it would just linger longer, ache more acutely—but it wouldn’t matter, he didn't intend to stay this way long enough for something like that to really matter.

He headed for the kitchen, pausing to grab a tea towel from the drawer before he opened the basement door, turned on the overhead bulb and went down the stairs. The stone and packed dirt beneath was cold through his socks, but he ignored it as he confidently transversed the dim tunnels to his destination. He opened the barred, reinforced metal door and stepped into the cellar, going behind a cross section of stone where the glow of the hung sunlamp was bright and the growth of vervain plants crowded in the garden table.

He stop and stared. Rationally, he knew it couldn't harm him anymore, he was human; but that frantic illogical part of him, the 145 year old vampire part, all it could think about, was the sprig in his palm, the acidity of the poison melting his skin; the vervain soaked ropes burning and rubbing layer after layer of his skin off, just shy of meeting bone beneath, vervain spilling like liquid fire down his nape and back, eating into his skin, flesh sizzling. He closed his eyes, banished the thoughts with a deep breath, and reached out with a slightly trembling hand. His fingertip brushed the tiny bundle of tight flowers at the head of the sprig, but there was no pain, it was just a plant to him now, a weed as civilians who didn't know of the supernatural thought them.

He picked a few mature sprigs from the lot and carefully wrapped them in the tea towel, and tucked the small bundle into his pant pocket. Since he was already down there, he attended the plants before he left the cellar and went back upstairs to the kitchen. He washed his hands in the sink with dish soap and searched for a snack that he knew he was going to be wanting soon. Nothing really caught his fancy until he peeked into the fridge freezer and his green gaze alighted on the pint of Chunky Monkey nestled on the shelf and he grabbed it without thought. A spoon shoved into his back pocket and he was good to go for the night.

Stefan paused at the bottom of the stairs as Alaric slowly came out of the parlor, fiddling with an empty tumbler in his hands.

"Stef,"

"I'm just going up to my room, I need to be alone for a little while," Stefan told him gently. "Ric,"

His blue eyes flickered with sadness as he caught sight of the ice cream container, no doubt thinking of the same thing Stefan had when he saw it and Stefan felt an ache in his chest that was not the bruises that Damon no doubt gave him.

Stefan glanced down at it, scraping a blunt fingernail through the thin layer of frost on the outside of the carton. "It's your favourite, there's more in the freezer if you want some." Alaric gaze a miniscule headshake. "I don't recall ever having a sweet tooth before, sweets were really rare back then, I preferred savoury things anyway. And then when I turned it became all about the blood." His voice took on a hushed constitution of remembrance, "Human blood was a savoury sauce, so smooth and consuming. Animal blood was like a shot of wheatgrass; it was earthy and bitter, an acquired taste." He grimaced, "Her vampire blood was a saccharine caramel melting on my tongue, sticking to my palate, my fangs, coating my throat--" Stefan jumped as there was a sudden popping sound, pulled from his head. He looked over at Alaric to find the vampire very taut and tense, his expression compressed. He glanced at his hands, "Did you break it?"

After a moment, Alaric gave a weighted exhale, slowly opening his hands, the glass in his palm. "Just cracked."

"Ric, I didn't--"

"It wasn't the blood. Well, it was but it was really... her." He looked over at the brunette from the fractured tumbler in his hand. "I was useless in there, Stefan."

"You were only there because I couldn't play along. I tried to kill her twice and both times she overpowered me. I wasn't strong enough, not to kill her, not to stop her from turning you." Stefan corrected softly. "I love you and all I've done since we've met was get you hurt, and killed, and turned. I've done nothing but plague your life with misery. It's just some sick, vicious cycle, from me to Damon to you—and soon enough it'll be Bonnie and Elena, too."

"Shut up," Alaric said, and Stefan looked up at him with as much surprise as the vampire had. "To repeat what you said upstairs." He set the cracked glass on the side table and carded his hand through his dirty-blond locks. "Goddamn it, Stefan. We can't keep doing this. Can't keep taking the blame. It was Katherine's fault, she did this. She is to blame." He stepped forward, his hand resting on the end balustrade of the banister. "And she's dead. She got what she deserved and she's out of our lives."

"You think it's that easy?" Stefan murmured.

"It won't be," Alaric acknowledged. "What happened to you, even if you were a vampire, was not an easy thing. But Damon killed her and Bonnie burnt her to ashes; she's gone. The only way Katherine can hurt us now," he reached out and gently took Stefan's left hand, his fingers cold and damp from the ice cream container and held it up, his thumb caressing his old Gilbert ring that now adorned the human's ring finger, right where Katherine had put it. "Is if you let her, Stefan. If you let the past get into your head and take over your heart. Don't let her win." He repeated the sentiment. "Don't let her break you—break us."

Unshed tears glinted on his lashes as Alaric mirrored what he had done before and rose Stefan's hand, pressing his lips to fingers and ring. Stefan swallowed, throat feeling too constricted to spit words out, if he even had any. It was true, Katherine was dead but she still managed to stay in his head, like a demon perched on his shoulder whispering poison in his ear, digging her fangs into his insecurities, feeding off them—and he didn't know how to banish her.

The vampire was reluctant to release his hand, to let him go but he did anyway. "Goodnight, Stefan." He headed back into the parlor, taking the cracked tumbler back in hand.

Stefan started back up the stairs but paused. "Where's Damon?"

"He left,"

Stefan gave a light scoff, "Figures. Goodnight, Ric."

He locked his bedroom door, not like it could bar a vampire from entering, but it felt like it gave him more privacy despite the true lack thereof that it provided. He set the melting ice cream on the reading table, moving papers out of the way so they wouldn't get damaged by the dripping condensation.

He was about to search for his cell phone to text the girls when he remembered that he lost his when Lucy fried his brain and John Gilbert vervained him on the street. He sighed, he was just going to have to buy another one. He wondered, for the first time, which they went through, the witch or the uncle, to find him. He guessed he didn't really care as long as he never saw either again his life.

He took off the lid and peeled back the plastic seal, he broke the smooth surface with the spoon from his back pocket. Stefan only intended to have a bite before he set about his initial task, but gave a little moan at the combination of banana, walnuts, and fudge; next thing he knew, he slid into a chair at the table and finished it before it could melt through. He groaned, laying his head down in his folded arms for a minute as he fought the urge to have a nap.

He forced himself up and wiped his mouth. He went to his closet and pulled out a foot chest, knelt in front of it and unlatched it, opening the lid. He searched its disorganised contents; it full of trinkets and precious items. Not necessarily expensive items, but things that held an sentimental value. He was slightly a hoarder, you could say, the attic of the Boarding House crowded in dusty crates and boxes that he hadn't looked in in decades; even things from dark periods in his past, like his apartment in Chicago when he was the Ripper for 11 years. A reminder, that list in the hidden room behind the pantry, the names of all the people he had fed from and killed, written in their own blood.

"Ah," he pulled the belt out, running the leather strap through his palm. It was a trick belt, Lexi had won it for him on his birthday at a tri-state fair in New York in 1967. The gear mechanism in the clasp buckle broke around the third time he used it that same night, but he'd kept it. Stefan closed the chest and pushed it back into his closet. He sat at his computer desk, turned on the lamp and took out a small, soft tool kit from a drawer. After some tinkering with it, he managed to remove the gears, leaving the clasp hollow and inert.

He filled it with vervain like he had the locket he'd given to Elena and locked it so it wouldn’t spring open. He took his wallet, which Bonnie had returned to him along with his other things and carefully cut the outside seam stitching in the worn leather with the scalpel from the kit and filled the lining with vervain as well, before he stitched it back up, the alteration not even noticeable. It was in his vampirehood that he learned the useful skill, particularly in 1942. He put the kit away and locked the remaining vervain wrapped in the tea towel in the drawer in his bureau. By the time he looked up at the clock, it was a few minutes passed 11 p.m. It wasn't that late, but he was tired and he knew that tomorrow, at the least was probably going to be an emotionally draining one when Elena and Bonnie came over and they finally had that talk about him coming back from the dead with magic as a human.

So he threw away the empty ice cream carton, wiped away the condensation ring from the tabletop before it could mark it and brushed his teeth. He stripped his socks and sweater off and turned out the light before he crawled under the covers.

~ T V D ~

Stefan woke, looked blurrily at the clock on his nightstand. 9:03 a.m. Groaned, rolled to the other side of the bed, face in his pillow and fell back asleep. When he woke next the clock read 11:19 and he made himself get up, jaw cracking as he yawned on his way into the en suite, jerking his curtains open on the way to let the noon sun in, feeling like he could sleep till dinner time. But the thought of food set his empty stomach off and determined his path; he'd already missed the most important meal of the day according to Reader's Digest, he wasn't going to miss another. He used the toilet and washed his face and styled his hair at the sink, rubbing at the pillowcase creases on his cheek.

He slipped on a pair of black jeans and looped the vervain belt through the loops, and slipped on a navy, round-necked t-shirt with a pocket on the left breast. He fed Salvatore before he left and he gave a glare at his balcony doors; he already had plans to get a key, it didn't necessarily have to be Damon's key, it was just a matter of him getting into town.

Downstairs, his stomach led him straight to the kitchen. Musing what he should eat, as he perused the fridge’s contents with a mind of lunch and missed breakfast; he settled on an omelette. He cracked a couple eggs in a bowl and whisked them as he put a frying pan on the flame to preheat; he mixed in chopped chives, mushroom, tomato and a pinch of cayenne pepper, sprinkling shredded cheese on it before he folded it in half. He hardly had the patience to slid it onto a plate and made up for it by eating it right there standing at the counter.

Hunger happily satisfied, he used his upbeat mood and washed the dishes from lunch and last night's supper instead of putting it in the dishwasher. He poured himself a tall glass of OJ before he left.

"You locked your bedroom door, real mature, Stefan." Damon greeted him in the hall without warning, catching the teen mid-drink, probably hoping to make him do a spit-take.

Stefan didn't give him the satisfaction; he didn't sputter or choke, the swallow went down a little hard, but he didn't show the outward grimace. "You changed the locks on my balcony doors, real mature, Damon." He stepped around his brother and continued down the hall.

"I was doing you a favor," Damon retorted, dogging him. "The security of those things were atrocious. A knob push lock, seriously? It was no wonder Katherine was able to crawl into your bed so easily."

Stefan spun on his heel, his good mood evaporating in an instant. "Screw you," he said harshly, his grip white-knuckled on the glass. In a previous life, it would have shattered, now his hand just shock from the pressure.

"Is that the best you got?" he challenged.

"What the hell is your problem?" Stefan barked in frustration. "Just give me the damn key!"

"Sure. When I can trust you not to fling yourself off the balcony in a fantasy to be a vampire again."

"I was sick--"

"You're just lucky I didn't board the whole thing up!"

"This is my life," Stefan hissed furiously.

"Exactly." Damon snarled, a shadow of veins appearing under his eyes, there and gone so fast Stefan couldn't be sure it wasn't just a mistaken shadow. They glared daggers at each other.

"Whoa, easy!" Bonnie announced her and Elena's presence in the front hall.

"It's hardly even noon," Elena looked between them. "And you're fighting?"

"Just a brotherly spat." Damon passed them into the sitting room. "He'll get over it once he realizes he doesn't have a choice in the matter."

"Stefan?" Elena laid a hand on his back.

Stefan heaved a sigh. "It's fine." He faced them and took a sip of orange juice. "He's just being a dick, it's not like that's anything new."

"I thought you guys were doing good?" Elena protested quietly.

Bonnie silently agreed with that. "You should have seen him earlier this week when you first got your fever—he was like a momma bear with her cub."

Stefan was silent at that. Damon always used to take care of him when he was sick as a child. Father didn't bother, it wasn't a man's job. His mother couldn't due to her own ailments. And the nurse maids tasked with caring for him were strangers he didn't trust. But Damon, who had no obligation to tend him, did, even when it brought their father’s ire onto him.

"It's been a stressful week for everyone," Elena rubbed his arm. "He's just worried and acting out."

Stefan already knew this. He also knew the he was an utter hypocrite because if their roles were reversed, Stefan would be the same way. But he still felt furious and annoyed at his brother's overbearing responses. He sighed again, "Come on."

They followed him to the sitting room, where Damon had already prepared himself a drink and Alaric was sitting off to the side on the piano bench, legs crossed, sipping bourbon.

Elena looked at him with curiosity. "Do you play?"

Alaric's brow wrinkled in confusion before he remembered where he was sitting. "Oh," he chuckled. "No. Not the piano. Used to play the sax in high school, though. And I dabbled with the guitar a bit in collage, but it never really stuck."

"Why do you guys even have it?" She looked between the brothers, across on either side of the room from each other. "Do either of you play?" she and Bonnie sat on the chesterfield.

"Zach used to play," Stefan murmured. The last time he heard his great nephew play was in '94, a time that was best left forgotten in the Salvatore Boarding House. When he'd compelled the man to forget his fiancée Gail, that went with it the piano lessons she'd given them, a music instructor herself.

"Amateur!" Damon coughed into his hand.

"But Damon here," Stefan announced, setting his glass on end table by the wing chair. "He's really the one who knows how to tickle those ivories wet. A real musical talent!" Bonnie looked sceptical. "It's true. It's true."

"What can I say," Damon shrugged amicably, "I always did have the talent in the family."

Stefan snorted. "More like you were afraid of Master Frantello."

"Unlike you, who seemed to love that damn ruler."

Stefan rubbed his hands in remembrance. "You know the saying: if you can play with broken fingers... anyways, you always did have more of an ear for it than me."

"Too bad the vicious old bastard died long before I got the chance to tear his jugular—but not before he played for us." A malice grin twisted the vampire's lips.

"So you play?" Elena summarized after an awkward moment of silence at the confession of the siblings dead music instructor. "Can you play something?" she looked to the vampire.

"Sure, come by Christmas and I'll play you something, put you right in the festive spirit." Damon told her.

Elena smiled at him. "Really?"

"No."

Bonnie glared at him, noting Elena's disappointment. "Grinch much?"

"What do I have to be green about?" he demurred and she rolled her eyes with a scoff.

"Ahem," Alaric cleared his throat. "Can we...?"

"Talk about this already so it never has to be mentioned again?" Stefan provided a suggestion to the unfinished question, drawing eyes to him as he sat in the chair beside his juice.

Bonnie inhaled deeply and turned to her friend. "When you died, your spirit went to what is called the Other Side, it's a purgatory that was created to house dead supernatural beings. Vampire, witches, etc."

"You don't have any recollection of being there?" Alaric asked.

Stefan squinted his eyes, concentrating, trying to think back, to pull a memory from the blank timeless space from when Katherine killed him to when he woke up very disoriented on the shore of the quarry. Sharp pain started to cut into his head he gave up before it could overwhelm him, rubbing his forehead with a faint grimace. "No."

"Well, that was where Emily went after she was burned at the stake by Jonathan Gilbert." Bonnie continued. "It was Emily's spell that brought you back. Using magic from both sides, we healed you and brought you back to your former 'pure' state. It was the balance of nature that brought you back as human instead of your vampire state. I've tried to commune with her since, but she's no longer on the Other Side, she's moved on."

He nodded slowly, remembering vaguely Bonnie telling him much the same back at the quarry. "So why can't you do the same and bring Ric back, or Damon. They could be human too again." He sat forward, "You can--"

"I can't," Bonnie shook her head sadly. "I wish that I could, but I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because you're special, Stefan."

"What does that mean? Why me? What's so special about me?" he demanded, on his feet. "What did I do to deserve this?" he lamented, it a double meaning question. What did I do to deserve this miracle of life, to be able to live again? What did I do to deserve this curse, to be able to live while the man I love was forced to take an undead life, separating us now and forever? The demon giggled in his ear at his inner turmoil.

Bonnie sent a quick glance at the others, all knowing the critical thing that he did not. Damon gave her a miniscule chin jerk as he poured another bourbon and walked over to his brother, offering the glass.

Stefan didn't take it, his gaze shooting from the amber filled glass to his brother's stoic face. "What's so special about me?" he repeated.

"Well, you're a doppelganger, brother, just like dear Elena over there."

"What?" he scoffed. "Seriously?" he looked from Damon's unchanging expression to the others who wore a mixture of worry and bated. "Huh. How did you figure that out?"

"It's information Emily gathered on the Other Side." Bonnie answered. "Being a witch, she was able to move around, make contact with other supernatural creatures trapped in their own pockets that hadn't moved on. She encountered 1 of your past doppelgangers, and that was how she created the spell. Doppelgangers are supernatural creatures, they're created by Nature to maintain a natural balance. That was why we were able to bring you back. Doppelganger blood has its own special magical properties. It's own source of magic."

Still trying to process, Stefan took the tumbler from his brother's hand took a gulp of the bourbon, it burned down his throat, making his eyes water as he coughed. Damon took the glass back with a mildly amused glint in his blue eyes as the brunette sat heavily back in the chair.

"Do you think... Katherine knew? About me?" Stefan voiced. "She wasn't exactly surprised at all about Elena looking exactly like her, so she must have known that she was a doppelganger."

"Katherine definitely knew she was a doppelganger," Damon said. "She was too smart and conniving not to have learned something like that about herself after living over 500 years."

And that made Stefan remember something she had told him while in the house, how she was on the run from someone big and scary enough that she couldn't kill, and wondered if it had something to do with her being a doppelganger. He flashed a worried look towards Elena. But Katherine was dead, so it shouldn't matter and he gave it no more thought. "Wait. If we're both doppelgangers," he looked over at Elena, "Then does that mean we're...?" he couldn't seem to say the innocent word but Damon caught where he was going with it easily.

"I'm sure there's probably an intermingling of Salvatore and Gilbert DNA somewhere along the line, just like there was probably fraternization with the Lockwoods, Fells, Forbes... you get the picture, I'm sure. But it's nothing you 2 should worry about," he took a sip of bourbon. "It's not like you slept together. And Katherine was born in the 15th century so I don't think you need to worry about that either, brother."

"No, Stefan." Alaric actually answered his question. "You and Elena aren't related. You're just... the same supernatural species." Stefan looked to him with a raised brow. "This is exactly the kind of stuff Isobel researched. I called Duke while you were in the hospital and got them to ship all her research to Mystic Falls. Some of it has already arrived through express, the rest should get here by Monday. I'm sure that all you and Elena could ever want to know about Doppelgangers will be in there." He reassured the 2 teens.

"Are you okay, Stefan?" Elena asked quietly. "It's can be--"

"It's weird, someone out there could be walking around right now with my face."

"If there is," Damon drawled, "I'm sure he's just as boring and as altruistic as you, Stefan." He went and topped off his glass.

Stefan gave a snort and slumped back into the chair. "Oddly, I find that reassuring."

"I glad I could help," he toasted the air with his glass and downed the contents. "Mm!"

"So, are you going back to school on Monday then, Stefan?" Elena asked after a moment.

"I might as well, don't see a reason why not. I've missed a week and am gonna have to play catch up." He shrugged. "At least this will be the last time I attend high school; 17th times is the charm."

Both teens gaped at him and even Alaric looked surprised.

"You graduated high school 16 times?" Bonnie asked. "Are you crazy?"

"Don't forget the hand full of universities and colleges in between too," Damon remarked. "Crazy doesn't even begin to describe, sister."

"I've been alive fore 162 years, I thought I should at least learn something, do something with that time." Stefan said. "Better than being a drunk serial killing degenerate."

"Is it though?"

"Yes!" was the chorus around the room.

Damon scoffed. "That's just because you all have a stick up your asses and don't know how to have fun. And you can't forget devilishly handsome."

Stefan rolled his eyes at his brother and looked to the other vampire in the room. "What about you, Ric?"

"Oh, well, I always thought I was classically handsome," he joked.

A smirk flickered at the corner of his lips. "I meant school."

"Ah. Well, I don't think I can put it off any longer. It was a fight to just get this week off, and they're counted as my vacation days. I was lucky to get them without being forced to compel the principal after I've only been teaching here for a month. So I don't really have choice if I want to keep my job. I might be a vampire now, but I still have to make a living." He punned.

"Are you sure you can handle that?" Elena wondered gently; worried for the teacher and the teenage population of Mystic Falls High. "I mean, Damon and Stefan have been vampires for the past 145 years, they could control the hunger, but you've only been a vampire for--"

"The last 5 days." Alaric nodded. "I know. But I haven't killed anyone yet and I spent nearly 4 of those in a hospital where people are bleeding constantly. I've been feeding regularly from blood bags; the only person I've feed from was Bonnie when she turned me."

"He'll never learn control if he's isolated from his trigger," Stefan added. "The longer a vampire hides from the temptation, the harder it get's to keep control every time they go into 'civilization."

"I can just put blood into a thermos, everyone will just think I'm having soup or something for lunch." He finished his bourbon. "I can drink from it when I get a craving."

"And if something does happen," Stefan looked back at Alaric. "We'll be there to help." He nodded at the girls.

"The only 1 who has a chance of taking down Big Bad Ric right now is Bon Bon." Damon interrupted cynically. "The Doppelganger Duo would just make some tasty vampire treats."

"I would never hurt them," Alaric denied.

"You telling me," Damon picked up a letter opener from the table and inspected it, "That if sliced those 2 open right now, you would go Rosario Vampire?"

Alaric blurred to his feet, empty tumbler left spinning on the piano bench. He growled, veins threatening around his eyes. "And you think I would just stand here and let you do that, even if I thought you could actually go through with it?"

"That's the thing," he smirked. "You won't know until I do it."

"Jesus Christ, Damon!" Stefan jumped to his feet in anger and exasperation. "Would you just stop with the bullshit threats to make Alaric snap already?"

"That's half my entertainment, little brother." Damon pouted, twirling the point of the letter opener into his fingertip. "I should at least get that while he's staying in my house, rent free."

"Ours," Stefan corrected icily, stepping forward with a glare.

"How about I just burst both your brains?" Bonnie stood calmly, looking challengingly between both vampires.

"Back to school special it is," Damon said.

[...tbc..]

~ The Vampire Diaries ~